Since last fall, volunteers for Weatherization First, a project of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light, have helped to weatherize 18 homes of low-income residents in Centre County, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and utility bills for 38 residents.
Sylvia Neely, a board member of PA-IPL, came up with the idea for Weatherization First and started the organization here.
“The problems of climate change are enormous, and sometimes people feel overwhelmed by these problems,” Neely said. “What we decided to do was something at the local level that could help people and then we would be making a contribution and raising awareness at the same time.”
Neely looked to Central Pennsylvania Community Action to see if her work would be helpful. She found that the need for weatherization is so great that Community Action can only accomplish five or six projects a year, and there is a waiting list of more than 900 requests.
“They refer people to us, but obviously, what we do is not of the same caliber as what they do,” Neely said. “They do an excellent professional job of energy auditing and they can do things like replace furnaces or repair roofs, and we can’t do those pricey kinds of things.”
However, she said, what CPCA can do doesn’t go very far.
“So there are all of these other people then without anybody to help them,” Neely said.
Jan Reasinger, the adult services case manager at Housing Transitions, has assisted Weatherization First by referring people in need.
Housing Transitions is a nonprofit corporation offering a variety of housing services to Centre County residents.
Reasinger has seen the necessity for weatherization — and the impossibility of meeting this demand through only one organization.
“I see the need that these people have for weatherization measures to be taken,” Reasinger said. “Financially, many of these folks aren’t able to keep up with measures that would help their situation. I just hope that by working together we can save money on heating and cooling costs and reduce dangerous greenhouse gas emissions that are leading to disruptive climate change.”
IPL also has a branch club at Penn State.
PSU-IPL President Luiggi Medina helped organize the club’s fourth annual Positively Green service day March 1, an alternative to the State Patty’s Day drinking holiday.
Also this year, about 15 student volunteers constructed 22 storm windows, which they then installed in the houses of low-income famlies.
On Saturday, Weatherization First will hold a fundraiser at Ace Hardware to raise money to continue its work weatherizing low-income houses. Although the workers volunteer their time, the supplies required for weatherization can be costly.
Last year, the organization raised more than $800 in donations, supplies and Ace Hardware gift cards.
Local congregations and community members have contributed through fundraisers, volunteer work and supply donations.
Malcolm Woollen, a Weatherization First volunteer and co-founder of the Creation Care Coalition of Centre County, which helped to establish PA-IPL, has worked on various projects since last fall, including weatherizing a trailer home and a modular home.
Woollen, an architect, said he found his volunteer work to be educational and eye-opening.
“Most of the time I deal with quite affluent, well-to-do people, and for the most part, I end up doing drawings that tell builders what to do or how to construct things, so it was a refreshing experience to, first, become familiar with trailers and modular housing and, second, to actually get my hands dirty by cutting insulation and crawling around under trailers,” Woollen said.